A friend of mine recently passed away. Some people may find it odd that I considered a cougar a friend, but I did. Every time I visited Panther Ridge Conservation Center I’d always stop by Charlie’s habitat. Often he’d be on top of his platform above his house looking down at me. I knew what he was thinking. From the first time I photographed him, I knew he didn’t like flash photography. But a simple growl and a piercing gaze told me all I needed to know. From then on, I didn’t use a flash around him, and encourage others as well.
Charlie would often come down to the enclosure fencing to see me. As a volunteer at Panther Ridge I knew what types of interactions were allowed and what wasn’t allowed. No, I wasn’t going to stick my hand in an enclosure, but I sure could use a scratcher to give him a treat. His soft blue eyes, and powerful purr told me he liked it. He would sit at the enclosure near me and we would just talk.
Charlie came to Panther Ridge in 1998, after being kept in the garage of a South Florida resident. He was three months old and had a severe case of metabolic bone disease. But that didn’t stop him. One of his favorite toys was a plastic boat bumper. He would gnaw it and bat it around his habitat. When a 200 pound cougar smacks a boat bumper, it goes pretty far.
People who have toured Panther Ridge may have experienced his kind nature with Judy Berens, the owner and operator of Panther Ridge. Charlie was a shining example of what humans and animals are capable of … harmony.
You will be missed Charlie. I’m sure you are in a better place, where there is no flash photography allowed.
Red Rock Canyon features a 13 mile long, one-way, loop road allowing vehicle access to many of the geological features in the area. There are seveal road side areas for parking and observing the landscape along the road. Many of these lead to trails which visitors can explore. Near the start of the loop is a visitor center which explains the region and offers and great hands on educational garden. Bicycling, walking, and rock climbing is permitted in the area.
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I have been posting at my personal blog, danbodenstein.com. The past few months have been wild. Not only did I get to speak to a black leopard, and a jaguar (yes, I said speak). I got to photograph a baby jaguar named Bella.It was all part of a Communicating with Animals seminar, and no one was more surprise at my results than I was.
Nothing like a Black Leopard telling you “You don’t belong here.” to get your heart racing.
Isabella, Bella for short, was a riot to watch. She was so curious about EVERYTHING.
Both these animals are cared for by the Panther Ridge Conservation Center in Wellington, Florida.